Steve Kerr’s Warriors job safe for now amid NBA coaching fires galore

Kerr’s job with Warriors safe for now amid NBA firings galore originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr’s replies to questions about his hopes for the future with the Warriors rarely vary. His words are consistent, unlike his facial expressions.

He loves coaching. Loves his team. Loves his general manager. Embraces the mounting pressure that comes from an uber-ambitious CEO ownership because that CEO, Joe Lacob, is willing to expand the payroll if it increases the chances of success.

With one season remaining on his contract, Kerr knows each loss puts him closer to the day Lacob decides to make the decision those atop other franchises are making at an astonishing rate. Firing accomplished head coaches seems to be a trend.

“The nature of the world we live in today is behind it,” Kerr said this week. “The power of social media, the value of these franchises. I would say 30 years ago, most of the owners were people who had bought their teams at a relatively low price and were probably more likely to be content with having someone go ahead and operate the franchise. And they weren’t taking hits themselves from the media about their job or their performances as owners.

“You think about how everything has changed. Suddenly these franchises are worth billions and billions of dollars and social media is crushing every player, every coach, every day. There’s so much pressure on every franchise to win, and it is hard. It is so hard to be the only team standing at the end of the day.

“You throw all that in the mix, and I think owners are much more likely to make big sweeping changes.”

In the 31 days since the regular season ended, six teams have decided to pursue a new coach. One, Dwane Casey of the Detroit Pistons, was given the dignity of resigning and accepting a position in the front office. The other moves, by owners with an itch to dismiss, were in pursuit of something they believe is better.

The Houston Rockets, in the middle of a rebuild, fired Stephen Silas rather than pick up the option on the final year of his contract. The Toronto Raptors bounced Nick Nurse four years after winning the NBA Finals and three years after he was voted Coach of the Year. The Milwaukee Bucks dismissed Mike Budenholzer two years after winning the NBA Finals – and two weeks after posting the best record in the league. The Phoenix Suns fired Monty Williams one year after he set a franchise record for wins and was voted Coach and the Year. The Philadelphia 76ers fired Doc Rivers after three seasons of year-over-year improvement in the regular season but never advancing beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Some will continue to collect paychecks for the duration of their contracts. All received a “parting of ways” gift of some sort. Thanks for your diligence and professionalism. Thanks for taking the franchise to place it had never been. And, by the way, thanks for the championship that’s gathering dust.

In Kerr’s case, he will be thanked for the guidance and multiple championships that lifted the Golden State Warriors’ brand to unprecedented local, national and global heights.

After completing his 10th season with the Warriors, Kerr is the third-most tenured coach in the league, behind the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (27 years) and Erik Spoelstra (15 years) of the Miami Heat. With all the changes over the last 13 month, the fifth-longest tenured coach is Taylor Jenkins, who took over the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019.

Kerr concedes there have been a few moments of strife in Golden State but insists they are worth the rewards he reaps from the job. In conversations with NBC Sports Bay Area, he has been consistent in saying, on balance, he enjoys coaching the Warriors.

To that end, Kerr says he is not particularly concerned that he has only one season remaining on his contract, particularly when GM and president of basketball operations Bob Myers has just six weeks.

“Our organization has a lot to sort through this summer,” Kerr said. “My contract situation is not, nor should it be, at the top of the list. Right now, Bob’s contract situation is No. 1 because that influences a lot of the player decisions that have to be made, contracts, draft, free agency.

“We will get to my stuff whenever that happens, and I’m in no rush for that.”

Kerr knows Lacob’s history regarding contracts; he considered offering Stephen Curry less than the maximum in July 2017. Lacob, according to multiple NBA agents, considers negotiation a competition. The goal? Winning.

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Yet Lacob has made multiple offers to Myers in hopes of retaining the GM and appreciates the synergy created by Myers, Kerr and the team’s veteran core of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Curry. Of the five men, only Curry has a contract beyond next season.

Kerr wants all five to stay together.

“I love coaching. I love coaching these players. I love coaching the Warriors, love living in the Bay,” Kerr said. “But I’m also in the NBA. And all you have to do is look at your phone every day and see the next Hall-of-Fame coach that’s fired. It’s insane. I’ve never seen the league like this.

“I’m under no illusions that I have a lifetime job here or something like that. But I love what I do, and I hope to be coaching here for a long time. But you never know how things work out, so we’ll see.”

There have been instances, after particularly frustrating losses, when Kerr feels the weight of meeting the high standard. He’s secure, by NBA standards. Which is not the same as immune.

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